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Private vehicles to be barred, footpaths widened on Wellington's Golden Mile

Private vehicles will be barred and footpaths widened on Wellington CBD’s Golden Mile as the city’s transport programme confirmed it would go ahead with the proposals after feedback from the capital’s residents. 

An artist's impression of Lambton Quay under the "transform" option. Source: Supplied

However, it's left Wellington businesses saying today's announcement lacked additional detail.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM), the city’s $6.4 billion transport programme, said tonight it would move ahead with putting together a business case to “transform” Lambton Quay to the end of Courtenay Place. Construction work is expected to start in late 2022 and is estimated to take two years.

According to estimates last year, the transformation could cost up to $80 million

During public engagement sessions in 2020, nearly 2000 people were asked about three options for the 2.4km (1.5 mile) stretch. The majority of people backed the most radical “transform” option which would widen footpaths by as much as 75 per cent, taking up an additional lane. 

The option would also create one bus-only lane in each direction spanning the Golden Mile, and bus stops would be moved or closed along it to reduce bus congestion and increase service reliability. 

Almost every side street that leads to the Golden Mile will also be pedestrianised. 

A shared zone beside the footpath for cycling along Lambton Quay would also be created. About 200 car parks on the Golden Mile are expected to be removed.

Emergency services would still be able to use the Golden Mile.

LGWM said the proposal would be technically feasible, with some modifications. Two reports it commissioned predicted wider footpaths would lead more people to visit the Golden Mile and positively benefit businesses. That's because it estimated only about 22 per cent of people arrived at the Golden Mile by car, with many not parking there. 

Wellington City Council Mayor Andy Foster said it was clear people wanted the central city to be safer and more attractive for people. 

“[It] supports our aspiration for more of us to get around safely and efficiently on foot, bike or public transport while ensuring business and freight access is well provided for,” he said. 

Greater Wellington regional chair Daran Ponter said it would look at keeping Tory Street open to private vehicles. Exceptions have also been made for Taranaki Street and Victoria Street.

“We are looking at access for commercial and delivery vehicles; loading bays and taxi stands on the Golden Mile," Ponter said.

Simon Arcus, the chief executive of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, said the announcement failed to give Wellington businesses further information about how they would actually be impacted. 

"Beyond announcing the option that has been picked, there is very scarce detail given, other than the hopes and platitudes articulated from the various spokespeople," Arcus said.

"There are hundreds of businesses along the Golden Mile that are going to be impacted, but there is no further information yet on service and delivery vehicle access, taxi stands, or how traffic flows may operate on and around the now cut-off side streets.

"These are all critical issues that the Chamber and others raised during the submissions and engagement process over the past 18 months, so we certainly expected further details as part of today’s announcement."

While businesses understood more information is coming, they needed clarity and certainty now as the impacts of the pandemic linger, Arcus said. 

"You have to ask if this is the best spend of ratepayer and taxpayer funding, whether the same outcome could be achieved more cost-effectively, and how it links to improving the city’s overall productivity.

"Again, there needs to be more policy detail to be able to justify the sizable expenditure."

LGWM proposed two other concepts: “streamline”, which would have removed some traffic from the Golden Mile, and “prioritise”, which would have created bus priority lanes but would have allowed less footpath space for walking and cycling. 

People can still provide feedback on the “transform” concept as its business case is finalised and detailed designs begin. 

A February report into LGWM found it suffered from poor leadership and was under-resourced. Its director of 18 months, Andrew Body, resigned in March

LGWM is a joint initiative between Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.